Summer is here and there’s no denying summers in the UAE are HOT. According to the Emirates Green Building Council, HVAC systems account for 70 per cent of our building’s energy usage. So, it’s no surprise that electrical demand goes up in the warm summer months. Meanwhile, HVAC equipment kicks into high gear to keep occupants cool. It’s the annual conundrum as building operators struggle to maintain the balance between cost and comfort.
So how can building owners and office managers do their part to both reduce our energy consumption while lowering electricity bills? Johan Samuelsson, Trane MEA’s Vice President, has narrowed down the four best practices that, combined, consistently deliver 10 to 25 per cent energy savings.
System scheduling is setting the temperature up or down according to building occupancy schedules. Flex time, work-from-home and busy travel schedules bring variability to building occupancy rates. And, with fewer people using heat-generating computers and other equipment, there may be an opportunity to reduce HVAC system operation. Office managers and building operators are encouraged to check with department heads or HR to find out how many people are actually in the building at any given time to ensure the HVAC systems aren’t running wastefully for full occupancy.
How cool is comfortable? Many commercial buildings are notoriously over-cooled. It should go without saying that if people are huddled in sweaters during August, you can safely raise the thermostat setpoint a degree or two. Be sure to move sensors around to get better readings—a sensor placed in direct sunlight may give an inaccurate reading for a large open workspace.
Shift energy demand
While you’re reviewing scheduling and setpoints, look for ways to shift energy use to off-peak hours. In the UAE, this is between noon and 6 pm. This practice is also in line with DEWA’s annual Peak-Load Campaign and is being carried out in accordance with the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy, which aims to reduce energy demand by 30 per cent by 2030.
How do you know when your building uses the most energy? Utility bills typically provide some information. Trane also use an energy visualization tool that creates a picture of hour-by-hour energy use. Once you know when the building is using energy, it is easier to figure out why. Then you can collaborate with other managers to shift energy-intensive operations to off-peak hours. Or, if you can’t change when equipment is used, you may be able to change when the energy is created. For example, you can implement thermal (ice) storage to freeze water at night to cool the building during the day.
As summer goes on, it’s a good idea to give HVAC systems an overall review and restore it to the original performance standards. A few minor flaws may not seem like a big deal, but when the system is working hard and energy costs are high, the little anomalies end up costing a lot.
Here’s what to look for:
- Manual overrides keeping settings out of spec
- Outdated or poorly located sensors in reconfigured spaces
- Valves and dampers that are stuck open, causing the endless cooling of hot, humid air
Check the system every few months at least. If you’re still operating in manual mode, that can mean a clipboard check of every thermostat, sensor and piece of equipment. The process can be much more streamlined in connected buildings that can detect system flaws in the data on a continuous basis.
Time and budget constraints can be barriers to progress. But doing everything at once or doing nothing at all are not the only options. Starting with small energy projects can be the perfect solution. By recognizing strategies for energy reduction, you can start with the most beneficial projects, build momentum for future energy projects, and ultimately develop a measurable continuous improvement plan.
As the UAE Government and other stakeholders strive to reach their ambitious energy-reduction targets, we must all work together to preserve the environment and realize a more sustainable future.